08 October 2012 Roadless Area Protection: A Victory for Wildlife Posted by: Jim Lyons | 7 comments | Share: The Supreme Court decision not to hear an appeal of the 10th Circuit Court decision upholding the Clinton administration’s Roadless Area Conservation Rule is a huge victory for wildlife. As a part of the team who helped establish the rule, I can say that the 11-year battle was well worth it. The “roadless rule” was a directive from President Clinton to protect all remaining roadless areas on our national forests. Of the 192 million acres of national forests in the U.S., 58.5 million acres — or nearly 30% — are without roads. These areas are important places for wildlife and the anchors for biodiversity across large areas of the western and eastern states. Roadless areas provide critical habitat for many threatened and endangered species, and include many watershed areas that are a critical source of drinkable water for major metropolitan areas across the West. Tongass National Forest, Alaska President Clinton signed the roadless rule in January, 2001, to resounding criticism from Members of Congress who saw this as usurping Congressional authority to create new wilderness areas. At the time, I was a member of the Clinton Administration, and along with General Counsel at the President’s Council on Environmental Quality Dinah Bear (now a Defenders Board member), we argued that the President was not creating new wilderness, but simply using his executive authority to protect these essential public lands. Other critics of the policy argued that this was done at the end of the administration with little opportunity for public input, despite the fact that the President’s action was the culmination of more than two years of work, an extensive outreach effort, and the most public comments ever received in history on any administration proposal. Legal challenges ensued, but a three-judge panel gave a unanimous ruling that the Clinton roadless rule was legal, and last week the Supreme Court allowed that decision to stand. What does this mean for wildlife? It means that they can continue to count on the safety of some of their most important habitats. In the northern Rockies, for instance, road development is a clear detriment to the recovery of grizzly bears. It fragments their habitat and increases their chances of a run-in with humans. Protecting roadless areas will give grizzly bears an anchor to build their populations and will aid in their recovery. You can find another example in the Pacific Northwest, where maintaining the headwaters of rivers and waterways is critical to the recovery of many threatened and endangered salmon species. While dams are one clear impediment to their migration upstream, roads in their nesting areas can create erosion, which pollutes the water and interferes with salmon spawning and development. Since existing roads in many national forests are already creating erosion problems, new roads would only make matters worse. Protecting these remaining roadless areas is an important part of the effort to restore iconic salmon runs in the region. The battle to protect wildlife can be a long and winding road – pun intended. In this case, the outcome is a vindication of the hard-fought work of President Clinton, Forest Service Chief Mike Dombeck, and all of us who believed it was the right thing to do. And wildlife will be better off as a result. 7 Responses to “Roadless Area Protection: A Victory for Wildlife” Juli October 12th, 2012 Thank you, Jim, for standing up for wildlife. And thank you to Defenders for their perseverance. It’s so joyful to hear that the protection will continue and that there is goodness and integrity still left in the legal system. With our continued fortitude and love for wildlife, we are turning things around. Bravo! Matthew Richter October 12th, 2012 Jim, how wonderful you can now make this report of success on protecting roadless areas in our National Forests. Thank you for your work and all of those involved in this long effort. Zora October 14th, 2012 Thank you for making me aware of this decision – I was one of many people who supported this rule and was very disappointed to see it potentially dismantled. Big win! Joan Caro October 15th, 2012 God bless you ALL for your efforts, and especially President Bill Clinton! Masha Aleskovski November 21st, 2012 Thanks for fighting for nature!!!! Karen Uyeno November 24th, 2012 Thank you, President Clinton, Jim and Jamie for the Roadless Area Conservation Rule. I’m sure the Grizzly Bears, salmon, and all the other animals and plants would thank you if they could! Gertie Bertie November 27th, 2012 Right-On!!!!! A victory for mother nature and all her glorious wonders!!!!! Thank you all!! Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in It’s Time to Act for Right Whales Years after they agreed to expand critical habitat for endangered North Atlantic right whales, we’re still waiting on NMFS to follow through. So we took to the courts to get this much-needed protection in place. How Should We Honor Earth Day? America has many worldwide firsts in conservation: we were the first nation to establish a national park, the first to create a national wildlife refuge, the first to approve a law protecting endangered species and the first to create a national day dedicated to conservation, Earth Day. 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